Perry, NY (WKBW-TV/Batavia Daily News)
Little did Village Mayor Howard Wood know what he was headed for while driving toward the Silver Lake outlet Friday morning.
He first drove over a pipe and wondered why it was in the road. Then he saw a broken chain link fence along Federal Street Bridge and wheels sticking out of the water. He had yet to learn that the victims were Deputy Mayor Michael Laraby and his wife Cynthia.
“It was still bubbling and I knew that someone was in there, but I didn’t know who,” he said Friday afternoon from his home. “He’s been deputy mayor for about as long as I’ve been mayor, six years. I’ve known him since he was a youngster. He was a real fine fellow. He did a lot of work for the village. He’s going to be missed a lot.”
Wood saw two people near the scene who had apparently called 911. Village police and firefighters arrived soon after. The Larabys, of Gardeau Road, were driving in their pick-up when for some reason they drove off the bridge and landed upside down in about five feet of water. The accident was reported shortly before 10 a.m., Village Police said.
Wood said that his deputy mayor was “not a reckless driver” and could only surmise that a medical condition caused him to veer off the road. After it was discovered that the victims were two of the Perry department’s own, they were pulled from the site, Chief Al Lowery Jr. said. The Castile Fire Department Water Rescue Team was used to remove the victims from the vehicle.
Wood’s sadness went out to the family of Mr. Laraby, 60, and his wife, 56, which includes their two sons, Steve, a first assistant and Dave, a captain with the village fire department, and a daughter Shelly. The families have known each other for decades, Wood said.
“Mike graduated with my daughter ... at least 40 years ago,” he said. “It’s just a sad situation, it’s very sad.”
Mr. Laraby was elected as a village trustee in 2006 and was re-elected twice more in 2008 and 2011. A deputy mayor for the last six years, he was an active member of the community as a member of the village Planning Board and Town of Perry and Wyoming County Republican committees.
He also served in the village fire department for more than 40 years, Lowery said. He was chief in 1987 and 1988, and had been treasurer since 1993. He was also the fire truck training officer and more recently was chairman of the truck committee.
During a prior election, Laraby said he’d be available to help people when needed. He was certainly true to his word.
“He was one of those guys, and his wife, that would do anything you’d ask them to do,” a solemn Lowery said. “He took care of lot of things around the firehall. It’s a tough loss for the Perry Fire Department and for the village.”
Promoted to manager in 2004, Mrs. Laraby had worked at Bank of Castile for several years before working in customer service for more than 25 years with Champion Products. Similar to her husband, she was involved in the community as treasurer of the fire department’s Ladies Auxiliary, Castile Community Club and Wyoming Tourism Promotion Agency.
As the news spread Friday, many people were “pretty saddened by the loss,” Lowery said. Business owner Ann Burlingham initially wasn’t certain if it was a rumor or true. Although she admittedly was not close to the Larabys, she felt the community’s pain.
“I liked them both. I would see them out eating,” said the Burlingham Books owner. “It’s a real shock, a real tragedy.”
Anita Billings, owner of Hole-in-the-Wall restaurant, said that her mother-in-law and Mrs. Laraby’s mom, Florence Irwin, grew up together. That forged a relationship that has meshed all of the Laraby, Rice (Mrs. Laraby’s maiden name) and Irwin family members, Billings said. She has observed first-hand how the Laraby couple’s families pull together.
“They are strong, good and loving families. It’s a blow to all of them,” she said. “Mike and Cindy Laraby were two people who cared about the community.”
As of Friday afternoon, the accident was still under investigation by village police and Wyoming County Sheriff’s Department.
Laraby, a Republican, served six years on the Village Board. He was first elected trustee in March 2006.
Laraby and Democrat Mandi Harvey were the top two vote-getters in a four-way race for a pair of seats.
Mayor Howard Wood appointed him to the deputy mayor position in April 2007.
Laraby was re-elected without opposition in 2008 and 2010. He was also cross-endorsed by the Democratic Party.
Laraby’s trustee seat would have been up for election in March 2012.